The Bright Stars of a Future Japan

One of the pleasures of working with International students in California was becoming friends with “special” students. Yes, all students are special, but we would sometimes meet extraordinary students who had a passion for life and learning. Some International students study in America because it’s easier or less stressful than staying in their home country and treat their stay as a long vacation. But others come to fully embrace learning about a new culture and language in the short time they have. They take every opportunity to explore, to make friends outside of their own culture and immerse themselves in the English language.

While we lived in California, I only saw half of the picture: how these students behaved while living overseas. But moving to Japan and reconnecting with some of our exceptional student friends, I have had the chance to see the other half of the picture: how these students use what they learned studying abroad in their lives in Japan. And I am so impressed with what I have seen.

Here are a few examples from some of our students we had English conversation groups with or spent time with in other ways.

Jun is working for the Japan League Soccer Association and regularly using his English skills to help communicate with foreign professional soccer clubs and translate contracts for players wishing to play overseas.

Saya and Nana are working at a growing company developing tools to teach people English. Saya even got me some contract work doing voice-over for one of the tests they are developing.

Another Jun worked hard on improving his English and got a job last summer translating for the visiting Brunei national soccer team while they visited and played in Japan.

Mitsu is finishing his degree at Waseda University and working part time for a start-up company.

Now that we live in Japan, it’s more difficult for us to find these exceptional young Japanese people who want to have a positive impact on the future of Japan, though we know they are around us. Fortunately, my friend Steve Sakanashi has brought a company to Japan to attract exactly that kind of person.

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Sekai Creator started in Seattle as a course teaching leadership and entrepreneurial skills to Japanese international students studying at local universities, but Steve’s vision was to reach more potential leaders of the new Japanese economy by bringing the program to Japan. In mid-May, he finally realized his dream by launching his course in Tokyo.

Steve asked me to photograph the launch event which was attended by over 35 bright young stars of the future. They came from various universities across Tokyo to hear about the six-week program which will give them hands-on training in being an entrepreneur and experiencing every role necessary to bring a new product to market. Steve brings in experts in various areas of business to share their knowledge with the students, but the students are required to develop a product, market it and make a 50,000 yen (about $500) profit in the six-week period. It is a difficult task, but the challenge pushes the limits of the students’s abilities and helps them to learn through experience, success and failure.

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The kick-off party was appropriately held at Ryozan Park, a beautiful community workplace where people can rent shared office space to collaborate and network with others. Though not inspired by Sekai Creator, the concept of Ryozan Park definitely fits the mold of what Steve would like his students to create in Japan.

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At the party, I had the privilege of meeting and talking to many extraordinary students, learning their stories and seeing a glimpse into the future of Japan. And I like what I see in them.

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Congratulations to Steve and his team on realizing their dream of launching Sekai Creator in Tokyo. I look forward to seeing how Sekai Creator inspires the young people in Japan to break out of the traditional thinking patterns of Japanese business that are hindering the economy and innovation of this otherwise amazing country.

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